When My Husband Asks What He Can Do to Convince Me He Loves Me, I Say

By Abby E. Murray

Featured Art: Sorry, I forgot by Evelyn Jenkins

I want you to become
utterly inconvenienced
by my past, present,
and plans, and I want
to have no awareness
of your suffering.
By all means, continue
telling me you love me—
every day, many times—
but I want you
to commit yourself
to a mobius strip list
of tedious chores
that need doing
several times a day,
in perpetuity—namely
laundry, cooking,
and cleaning while
cultivating kind
and grateful children.
You will need
to prioritize.
I want you to find
everything our family
wears no matter
where we disrobe
and I need you
to wash our clothes
in soaps that don’t
irritate my skin,
then you must
line dry certain items
while tumble-drying others;
keep in mind that I alternate
line/tumble drying
depending on the item
and how many times
I’ve worn it
and where I wore it
and how much I like it.
I will be very upset
if you forget. Naturally,
you’ll need to sort,
fold, deliver, and hang
clean clothes,
but I’d like you
also to tell me
where they are
in a way I can
remember, when I feel
up to listening.
I will still ask you
to help me find them
again, when I need them,
but I like to feel
included, you know?
Please remember
to change the sheets
on Fridays. Should you
ask me for help
and I am available
to oblige, I promise
never to learn how
you’ve done any of this,
staining and shrinking
expensive items
which I then fold
into tiny cubes,
the way my mother did.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
I want you to create
a weekly menu
each Sunday
to be posted on our fridge,
and based on that menu,
I want you to draft
a list of supplies
needed from various
pharmacies and grocery stores,
then you must drive
to those places,
find the supplies,
buy them, bag them,
drive them home,
sort them, put them away.
I will come with you
to keep you company
but I prefer not being
sent to stores alone.
While we’re out
I will want to talk
about traffic
and the price of toilet paper
in a loud voice.
Let’s do this every
weekend, forever.
I’ll thank you later.
I’ll likely get home
from work just before
dinner is served
so you’ll have to make it.
There will be nothing
I can do about that—
I’ll remind you.
Please get excited
when you hear the key
in the lock. Maybe
you can work remotely
during the day?
Maybe I can buy you
a gym membership?
I think you’d get better
results at a gym.
When you cook, I will
describe my feelings
about each dish,
using terms like endlessly
frustrating and pointlessly
complicated and weird.
In exchange, I will learn
to make miso soup
so well it becomes
the only thing I can
possibly contribute
to any meal, ever.
I want you to develop
an interest in baking,
desserts especially,
so that when you follow
a New York Times
two-day recipe
for miniature fig
and cherry pies,
I can remind you
how much I was
hoping for plain
chocolate chip cookies—
nothing fancy.
I want you to become
a vegetarian
for reasons informed
by your own
childhood trauma,
the kind you still feel
down to the molecules
of sweat that sprawl
on your palms today,
and I want you to raise
our daughter
as a vegetarian too
so that when she asks
for a real Mcnugget
I can tell her no
because you don’t
want her to have
delicious snacks
while you sit there
remembering that video
of soldiers laughing
at a headless chicken
as it ran in circles,
a sprinting font of blood
until it died
and became dinner.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
you must keep
the floors clear,
make all our appointments,
coordinate transportation
and care for our pets—
you will need to admit
that you’re the one
who wanted them, after all.
You’ll need to sweep,
mop, scrub, disinfect,
diagnose, find, collect, stack,
reorder, pay, mail, return,
schedule, follow up,
call and leave a message.
I want you to be on time
for doctor’s appointments
that enter you.
Don’t worry, I’ll be here
to say I told you so.
You will need to manage
the household’s medications,
illnesses, and symptoms.
You’ll need to coerce us
to heal. Aren’t we darling?
Just look at our daughter.
I think she has dandruff.
If you want to convince me
you love me, please
teach her how to wash
her hair properly
and also she is struggling
with her multiplication tables
so if you get a minute
you should address that
because you get through
to her better than I do,
I don’t know why.
And you know what,
go ahead and get a PhD.
I want you to study
what you love most.
I will complain about
how little I see you
for four years,
I will become
a well of mother’s guilt,
does that help?
I want you to publish,
I want you to only
accept jobs that pay
enough for me
to respect them
(if you don’t,
I’m not sure how
I can discuss anything else
when we have company)
and while this might be
difficult considering
how often we relocate
for my job
I trust you to figure it out.
If you want to convince me
you love me,
you will figure it all out.
I know you don’t
cry much but once
every five times
you break down
sobbing in the bathroom
I promise to look at you
while you say things to me.
I will buy you a coat,
I will buy you a watch,
I will tell you
you’re just a better person
than I am, maybe
it’s genetics.
I promise you, as always,
to be easily convinced
by your love;
in fact, all I need
is about twenty years
of these requests
fulfilled, and remember,
you have a beautiful smile,
you’re so smart,
I liked your hair better
when it was longer.

Abby E. Murray is the editor of Collateral, a literary journal concerned with the impact of violent conflict and military service beyond the combat zone. Her book, Hail and Farewell, won the Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 Washington State Book Award. She teaches rhetoric in military strategy to Army War College fellows at the University of Washington. After serving as 2019-2021 poet laureate for the city of Tacoma, Washington, she recently relocated to Washington DC, where her spouse works in the Pentagon.

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